A Democrat-aligned super PAC is taking aim at Adam Putnam with a new website called ProblemPutnam.com.
American Bridge, launched by David Brock in 2010, says it intends on informing Floridians over the next year about what it contends has been Putnam’s priorities in public office since first being elected more than 20 years ago:
“Sweet deals for big business and his own bank accounts, while squarely ignoring the needs and concerns of Florida families.”
Putnam is considered a leading contender to become the next Republican nominee for Governor in 2018. In addition to his prodigious fundraising totals (he has over $15 million cash-on-hand), the only other establishment Republican considered to have any shot at him – Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala – has had his campaign upended by allegations of sexual harassment that could lead to his expulsion from the Legislature.
Two other men considered to be contenders, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, have yet to enter the race.
“Adam Putnam is truly the problem child for Florida Republicans—he’s been cozying up to and making sweet deals on behalf of the lobbyists and donors that keep him in office for decades, all at the expense of Florida families,” American Bridge spokesperson Lizzy Price says.
“Putnam is right in line with Republicans in Congress under the leadership of Donald Trump who give handouts to the rich at the expense of the middle class,” Price adds.
“This will be a long, difficult campaign for Problem Putnam and in the end, Floridians will know that his problems aren’t endearing. They’re dangerous and wrong for Florida.”
The Putnam campaign slammed the site, and American Bridge.
“No surprise to see a super PAC funded by Hollywood liberals George Soros and Michael Moore is terrified to see a strong conservative with a positive vision for our state in the race for Governor,” said Putnam campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis. “This website is a poor-quality, Hollywood production that aims to fool voters into reversing the progress our state has made.”
Soros, the billionaire hedge fund manager, has been a major contributor to American Bridge over the years, including $80,000 earlier this year, according to Open Secrets.
Gubernatorial candidate and Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala has been fighting back against sexual harassment allegations for more than a month, and the press reports haven’t helped in pull in money for his campaign.
Latvala entered the GOP Primary for governor back in August and after a hot start, his contributions slowed to halt in November after six women told POLITICO the longtime lawmaker had sexually harassed them during his time in office.
Latvala denies the allegations and vowed to clear his name, calling the report ‘fake news.’
Latvala’s fundraising arm, Florida Leadership Committee, finished October with $234,000 in contributions and more than $4.1 million in the bank, much of it left over from his battle to become Senate President.
In November, however, FLC took in just one check for $5,000 from the Florida Association of Health Plans PAC, with another $347 coming by way of interest, but that didn’t keep the committee from spending some of its reserves.
FLC spent nearly $160,000 last month, and had spent another $36,000 through the first week of December.
According to documents on the committee website, $50,000 of that money went to the Republican Party of Florida, more than $37,000 was spent on printing and mailers, $10,000 went to Champion Digital Media for advertising alongside several research, strategy, fundraising and political consulting contracts clocking in at a few thousand a piece.
Latvala is currently one of two major Republicans running for Florida governor. If his campaign weathers the storm, he faces termed-out Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam and likely a couple more contenders, such as House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.
A new poll from St. Leo University found Gov. Rick Scott has surpassed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in for Nelson’s seat in 2018.
The poll, conducted online between Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, showed Scott with a double-digit lead over Nelson in the matchup, 42-32, with 8 percent preferring another candidate and 18 percent undecided.
Eight months ago Nelson held a 5-point lead over Scott, 39-34, and in September the Scott took a slim 35-33 lead.
Scott, a Republican, has not formally entered the race for U.S. Senate, but he is termed-out as governor and is almost sure to challenge Nelson, a Democrat, in his campaign for a fourth term next year.
“We’re still almost a year out from the 2018 elections, but Rick Scott is in the best position he’s been in yet against incumbent Bill Nelson,” said polling institute director Frank Orlando. “It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this support while his party is hurting electorally throughout the country.”
Scott has also made considerable strides over the last two months when it comes to voters’ perception of his job performance.
Back in March, about 56 percent of Florida voters said they had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the second-term governor, while about 39 percent said they viewed Scott, a Republican, in a “somewhat unfavorable” or “not at all favorable” light.
Last month, the positive view climbed to about 61 percent while the negatives had dwindled to about 31 percent. The other 8 percent said they were unsure how they felt about Scott.
The poll also touched on the leading candidates to replace Scott in the governor’s mansion, though the bulk of the survey was conducted when Orlando attorney John Morgan was still considering a run in the Democratic Primary.
Among all voters lumped together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — Morgan again came out on top with 24 percent support, followed by Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam at just under 19 percent.
About 53 percent of Democratic voters said they were unsure, leaving the race wide open for fellow Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum (6 percent), Orlando-area businessman Chris King (3 percent) and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine (2 percent).
“No one has been able to rally establishment support and win the invisible primary. With some uncertainty removed as Morgan took himself out of contention, the process of winnowing the field might finally begin in earnest,” Orlando said.
Putnam, who has gone gangbusters on the fundraising trail, leads the Republican field with 15 percent support, though nearly 63 percent of GOP respondents were unsure.
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, not yet a candidate,was second-place among named options at 4.8 percent, followed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and embroiled Clearwater Sen.Jack Latvala, both with under 3 percent support.
“Adam Putnam isn’t in an insurmountable position, but he’s at least the leader in the clubhouse,” Orlando said. “Other prominent GOPers are busy fulfilling the duties of their office or in the news for the wrong reasons. It’s difficult to compare Putnam against Morgan at this point, as our results show that voters would still prefer someone else in the governor’s mansion.”
The poll took in responses from 500 Florida voters — including 181 Democrats and 166 Republicans — and has a 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level. More detailed information on the poll’s methodology and findings can be found on the St. Leo University polling website.
In this issue of Bold, there’s not a lot of unwelcome news.
— Travis Hutson potentially ascending to Senate leadership.
— The local paper’s editorial board finally noticed Hutson’s Senate colleague, Rob Bradley.
— A popular local politician — Sheriff Mike Williams — is (finally) officially running for re-election.
— If you read far enough, you’ll find the latest “big idea” in Jacksonville politics — a potential privatization of the local utility.
— And two new Sumatran tiger cubs — a “critically endangered” species — were born at the Jacksonville Zoo.
Some issues of Bold — and undoubtedly many future ones — will be packed with scandal and drama.
This one, luckily for the local political class, is not.
6th Congressional District race has Duval flavor
Though Duval County is now comfortably north of Congressional District 6, it’s worth watching as — at least by proxy — it could be argued to be a Jacksonville seat.
Incumbent Ron DeSantis has not decided whether to run for re-election or run statewide, yet wife Casey Black DeSantis is and presumably will continue to be a fixture on Jacksonville television.
The likely Democratic nominee — Ambassador Nancy Soderberg — has been a longtime professor at the University of North Florida.
And a potential GOP candidate — former Green Beret Mike Waltz — was an alumnus of Stanton High School (Go Blue Devils!)
At a time when Congressional District 5 (a seat currently held by Tallahassee’s Al Lawson) may or may not be in play for a Jacksonville politician such as former Mayor Alvin Brown, it’s worth watching to see if CD 6 will end up as a Jacksonville seat by proxy.
St. Johns County Sen. Hutson may be on the Senate Leadership track.
But it’s going to take some time to find out, as Florida Politics reported this week.
The two front-runners to be potential Senate Majority Leader in 2022 are Hutson and Tampa’s Dana Young, according to more than a dozen sources, including several members. Beyond Hutson and Young, sources say Dennis Baxley and Greg Steube should be seen as dark horses.
There’s a lot of time between now and the 2020 vote. However, Hutson atop the Senate and Renner atop the House would make for a unique and welcome convergence for Northeast Florida.
Paul Renner previews Legislative Session, talks harassment
Palm Coast Rep. Renner — a Jacksonville lawyer who chairs Ways and Means and is on track to be Speaker in 2022 — spoke to a crowd on the Southside Wednesday.
While Florida has “the right policies,” is headed in “the right direction” and has a “bright future,” the state nonetheless faces challenges.
Among those challenges: population growth, including a near-term influx from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and long-term expectations that Florida could add 6 to 8 million people in the coming years. And roads and other infrastructural issues.
“Two points: one is that human beings being are who they are, in any organization you’re going to have five to 10 percent who can’t help themselves in their personal conduct. We need to identify that and ask them to return home because they’ve lost the trust of the people who elected them,” Renner said.
Renner’s second point: term limits.
“You see some of these problems. You look at John Conyers in Congress: he’s 88 years old and has had some serious allegations against him,” Renner added. “Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, there’s a period of time after which people become co-opted, happier to be there than to do what the people sent them there to do.
“They’d rather spend time drinking scotch at the club or doing things that they don’t have any business doing than to do the people’s business,” Renner added. “Do I think that’s widespread among elected members? I do not. But it is an issue, it is a problem, and it’s something we have to take seriously. And as these things arise, it’s something we have to address.”
Staff boosts for Jay Fant AG campaign
When it comes to the GOP race for Attorney General, Fant is in it to win it.
Fant faces former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and fellow Republican Reps. Frank White and Ross Spano in the GOP primary for AG, and has seen his campaign lag in recent months as his rivals, particularly Moody and White, have picked up steam.
The Jacksonville Republican’s revamp effort includes bringing in Randy Enwright and Jim Rimes of Enwright Consulting Group to lead his political team and turning to The Tarrance Group for polling. Former Rick Scott communications chief Melissa Stone is also coming on board via Cavalry Strategies.
Fant is also going all in on advertising with the Strategy Group, which helped President Donald Trump last election cycle and have worked on 11 other Attorney General campaigns nationwide.
Josh Cooper’s Strategic Information Consultants will be handling opposition research, while Strategic Digital Services, founded by Matthew Farrar and Joe Clements, will handle the digital media operations.
Fant has messaged to the right of the field, but has seen his credibility hamstrung by a shoestring operation. Now that problem has been solved.
Fant wants Franken gone
Rep. Fant — as is often the case — is holding forth on issues beyond the state Legislature in which he serves, and the Attorney General’s office in which he would like to serve.
Fant’s latest rhetorical broadside: a full-throttle smackdown on Sen. Franken, accused of letting his hands wander during photo ops.
Fant wants Franken gone.
“Senator Marco Rubio said yesterday that Senator Al Franken should resign, and I fully agree with him on this. Senator Franken has already admitted to mistreating women in a way that would be offensive to come from any person, but is completely out-of-bounds for an elected official representing our public trust. He must go,” Fant said.
“As the father of two daughters, I am sickened by public officials misusing the power of their office for harassment. Sexual harassment is wrong in any workplace,” Fant added, “but is especially disgusting when it involves someone who represents the public trust.”
Fant is embroiled in a crowded four-way race for the GOP nomination for Attorney General. Two of his opponents — White and Spano — are House colleagues. A third competitor, Moody, is a retired Hillsborough County judge.
Times-Union gives props to Bradley
Sen. Bradley was lauded by the Florida Times-Union editorial board last month, and — as it ran during the Thanksgiving holiday — some of our readers may have missed it.
Bradley, the current Senate Appropriations Chair, was celebrated for sponsoring a bill that would earmark $100 million for the state’s “Florida Forever” conservation program.
If this sounds like déjà vu, it’s probably because Florida Politics wrote about the bill two months ago.
“This ought to be easy. Florida voters approved that funding by a whopping 75 percent vote three years ago. But the Legislature has a maddening habit of ignoring the will of the voters,” the T-U ed board remarked.
With the Times-Union yet to announce a replacement for the respected Tia Mitchell, it will be interesting to see how the Jacksonville paper covers Bradley — and the Florida Legislature — in 2018.
Kim Daniels settles disputed election spending
Rep. Daniels cut a deal this week with the Florida Elections Commission. She will spend $1,500 to settle claims that she paid campaign money from her 2015 Jacksonville City Council re-election bid on promoting her book, “The Demon Dictionary.”
As Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly reported in February 2015, Daniels spent $4,000 of campaign funds to promote her book, The DemonDictionary, in a religious magazine called Shofar.
Daniels also offered editorials in the magazine, and no disclaimers marking the communiqué as campaign communications were included.
A local activist/journalist, David Vandygriff of JaxGay.com, filed an FEC complaint, and in March 2016, staff recommended to the commission that there was probable cause to believe that an election code violation might have occurred.
Daniels faces no opposition thus far in her 2018 bid for re-election.
Second Democrat jumps into HD 15 fight
Many connected Jacksonville Democrats are solidly behind Tracye Polson in her bid to replace Fant in House District 15.
But to get to the general election against a Republican (Wyman Duggan is the only one to have filed yet), Polson must fend off a primary challenge.
Jacksonville Democrat Matt McAllister filed last month for the seat.
Jacksonville Sheriff Williams filed for re-election Tuesday, opening a campaign account and launching an operation well ahead of the 2019 vote.
Despite the formal filing for re-election, it’s clear that Williams has been working in that direction for months.
Williams’ political committee, “A Safe Jacksonville,” has raised $154,000, and has $131,000 on hand.
The committee’s spending in September and October reflected a nascent re-election campaign, with a $10,000 October spend with Jacksonville consultant Bruce Barcelo on constituent polling, after a September spend of $8,900 with Data Targeting Research for the same.
While we don’t have access to the internal polls, the most recent public poll shows that Sheriff Williams is popular, with 67 percent approval countywide … including 60 percent of Democrats.
Bad trip? Or hit piece?
The Florida Times-Union offered a long-form look at the political symbiosis between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.
The subtext may be more interesting than the text.
Historically, there has been a pattern when the T-U would go in on Curry’s administration on one issue or another; a Cold War of some length, followed by rapprochement.
“Curry’s current travel practices have blown up the old system,” writes the T-U’s Nate Monroe, who adds that “Curry considers himself a reform mayor who championed hard-won changes to the old ways of doing business, often touting his interest in increased transparency and accountability for the massive consolidated government he oversees. But Curry might be sidestepping that goal when it comes to his own office.”
In a media market like this, with a few dedicated City Hall reporters between print and television, the relationship between Curry and the local paper is worth watching. While the T-U editorial board is pretty much on lock, the news side is more skeptical — as Monroe’s article suggests.
Curry faces no imminent challenges to re-election, and — as compared to Alvin Brown, who attempted to stay above politics — is exceedingly well prepared for a re-election campaign.
But the path forward can get more treacherous if articles like this one occlude the larger narrative.
Tree canopy tango
Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni introduced legislation this week that opposes a state bill (HB 521/SB 574) that would cut the heart out of the city’s protections of its tree canopy.
The state bill, filed by Republican Greg Steube in the Senate and Democrat Katie Edwards in the House, would prohibit cities such as Jacksonville from stopping landowners from removing trees located on their own private property.
Crescimbeni’s Jacksonville City Council bill (2017-822) contends that the legislation is “harmful to the environment and contrary to the overwhelming wishes of Jacksonville citizens,” and that the state legislation is an “assault on home rule.”
The Crescimbeni bill, if it moves through committee, will be voted up or down by the full Council in 2018.
Price of sex discrimination to be paid by Jax taxpayers
WJXT reported on the city of Jacksonville getting ready to dole out almost half a million dollars to settle two sex discrimination cases.
“The city tried unsuccessfully to get both lawsuits dismissed, and in each case, the city’s general counsel said the agreed upon settlement would be far less than what the city might have to pay after a jury trial and lengthy court battle,” reports WJXT’s Jim Piggott.
For a taste of what these women had to endure, consider the example of 65-year-old Deborah Jones, a jail employee.
Jones claimed her boss called her an “old, demented, worthless whore” and who “didn’t need to worry about inmates hanging around a dark parking lot because ‘they don’t rape old, ugly women.’”
Reggie Gaffneyraises $10K in re-election bid
It appears that, despite issues during his first two years in office, that Jacksonville City Councilman Gaffney will have the resources he needs to best lightly-funded opponents.
October revealed fundraising that, while slow compared to many other candidates in the city, dwarfs opponents in Council District 7, which includes Downtown, Springfield and points north.
Gaffney brought in $9,100 in October, pushing him to $10,100 raised — with all but $228 of that cash on hand.
Gaffney’s money came in chunks: $2,500 in three checks from local dog track interests; $2,000 from three property management entities housed at the same address (437 E Monroe St. Ste 100); and $2,000 more from two property management companies with the same post office box in Yulee.
One opponent has $1,800 banked; the other has $0 in reserve.
Privatize JEA? Tom Petway says yes.
The big news out of Tuesday’s meeting of Jacksonville’s JEA Board wasn’t on the agenda.
Board member Petway — one of the earliest supporters of the candidacy of Jacksonville Mayor Curry — announced his intention to leave the board Dec. 31. And he revived a major conceptual proposal on his way out.
Petway suggested that perhaps the time has come for the municipal utility to move into a “private sector marketplace” model.
“The majority of people in Florida are served by a private-sector marketplace,” Petway said, asking the board to consider where JEA “fits” in that emergent paradigm.
At a press availability Wednesday, Curry further discussed the audacious proposal by one of his staunchest political supporters.
“[Petway and] I’ve had abstract conversations about challenging the utility to think big,” Curry said. “Numerous times.”
“I’ve been about reform, challenge, changing the status quo,” Curry added. “And he certainly challenged the organization to think big yesterday.”
This concept has been floated twice in the last decade, and couldn’t get traction.
However, some City Councilors — notably, Council liaison to JEA Matt Schellenberg and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis — are receptive, even as Council President Anna Brosche wants to know more.
Two candidates have emerged in the hopes of replacing Gibson.
The names: Lisa King, the county party committeewoman who lost a race for state chair to freshly-resigned Stephen Bittel; andHazel Gillis, VP of the Duval Dems’ Black Caucus.
“Democrats can win elections in Jacksonville. To do so,” King said, “we must be brave, build trust and be ready to work.”
Gillis, in an email announcing her bid, noted that she will “work diligently to unify our party and work for inclusion.”
The party will choose Monday evening.
Scott reappoints two to Jacksonville Aviation Authority
Gov. Rick Scott announced the reappointment of Patrick Kilbane and Giselle Carson to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
Kilbane, 38, of Jacksonville, is a financial adviser with Ullmann Brown Wealth Advisors. He received his law degree from the University of Notre Dame. Kilbane is reappointed for a term beginning ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Carson, 49, of Jacksonville, is an attorney and shareholder with Marks Gray PA. Carson received her bachelor’s degree from McGill University and her law degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law. Carson is reappointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Wildlight UF Health facility plans filed
Wildlight LLC has filed plans with the St. Johns River Water Management District this week for a proposed University of Florida health and fitness complex at Wildlight, the master-planned community in Nassau County.
Karen Mathis of the Jacksonville Daily Record reports that Wildlight developer Raydient Places + Properties and UF is seeking to construct two medical office buildings, with parking facilities, on 6.38 acres in Yulee at Florida A1A and William Burgess Boulevard.
In August, Raydient — Rayonier Inc.’s real estate subsidiary — and UF announced groundbreaking would begin in 2018.
Plans include a 23,331-square-foot medical office building and a 5,888-square-foot building. GAI Consultants of Jacksonville is serving as the project agent.
Wildlight is a 2,900-acre development with 7 million square feet of office, commercial, medical, industrial and residential space. The project will include 3,200 residential units.
Originally in downtown Jacksonville, Rayonier moved its headquarters to Wildlight, a new town that it refers to as “Florida Lowcountry.”
In all, Wildlight will offer homes, townhomes and rental apartments along with shops, restaurants, parks, gardens, playgrounds, a new elementary school that opened and a trail and pathway system to connect it.
JTA holiday bus offers free rides, candy canes, music
Weekdays through December 22, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is offering a special holiday bus, located on any one of its routes during the holiday season.
If you find the holiday bus, you can ride for free.
JTA says riders on this holiday bus will also get holiday music, candy canes, and decorations.
For more information on the holiday bus, contact JTA customer service at (904) 630-3100.
Jacksonville Zoo celebrates birth of endangered Sumatran tiger cubs
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating the healthy birth of two critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs. The cubs’ mother, 6-year-old Dorcas, gave birth at 11:40 a.m. November 20. The tigers’ keepers were able to keep an eye on the process using a closed-circuit camera system.
Both cubs are male; they are the second litter for Dorcas and father, Berani. The Zoo’s first Sumatran tiger birth in its 102-year history is big sister Kinleigh Rose, born on November 19, 2015 — two years and a day before the arrival of her little brothers.
“One of the biggest pleasures as the Zoo’s tiger-management program evolves, is watching the effect that it has on the wellness of our animals,” said Dan Dembiec, Supervisor of Mammals. “Dorcas started out as a skittish and shy tigress, but she is now a confident and skilled mother. She is a natural at providing her cubs with the necessary care to help them develop, and this is reflective of the care that she has received from the staff at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.”
The cubs received their first medical exam on November 28. Zoo Animal Health staff were able to quickly and efficiently examine the cubs because of the exceptional bonding and training the keeper staff has conducted with the mother. Dorcas was willing and trusting to be separated from the cubs at the request of the keepers.
Contending that too much sexual abuse, assault, and harassment in Congress may be hidden forever by secret settlements with non-disclosure agreements, Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is leading a bipartisan effort to end such practices.
“What does it say about the sincerity of Congress in combating harassment when members and staff can have taxpayers cover for their misconduct while keeping it all secret?” DeSantis said in a news release issued by his office.
The Ponte Vedra Republican was joined by Tennessee Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, and Kathleen Rice of New York in announcing late Wednesday they are introducing a bill that would ban tax dollars paying sexual misconduct lawsuit settlements, and ban the requirement of non-disclosure agreements in such settlements involving members or staff of Congress.
The Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act would seek to make it more difficult for congressional sexual misconduct perpetrators to make allegations go away with payoffs and secrecy clauses. It also would out previous settlements.
Specifically, the bill would:
– Prohibit the use of public funds for settlements in connection with acts of sexual harassment or sexual assault.
– Require a public website report on all payments with public funds prior to date of enactment. The reports would include: the amount paid for each settlement; the source of the public funds; and identification of the employing office, and the individual who committed the violation. The names of the victims would remain secret.
– Require anyone who settled claims of sexual harassment or abuse with federal money since 1995 to pay it back.
– Prohibit any requirement for a non-disclosure clause in any future sexual harassment or sexual assault lawsuit settlements.
– Waive and nullify all previous non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment or sexual assault lawsuit settlements against members of Congress or their staff members, so that the victims could come forward later, if they decide to do so.
“Members of Congress and staff cannot live under special rules,” DeSantis continued in the release. “The current system incentivizes misconduct and makes it difficult for victims. By exposing these secret settlements and by discontinuing using tax dollars to pay for member misconduct, this bill will reduce the incentive for bad behavior and bring more accountability to Congress.”
Will U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis run for re-election in Florida’s 6th Congressional District? That question is still unanswered — word for some time has been that DeSantis will run statewide in 2018, and he currently plans to make an announcement early next year.
Those watching this district may experience a sense of déjà vu; recall that in 2016, DeSantis was an active candidate to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.
Once Rubio decided to run for re-election, DeSantis ran for — and won — re-election to the House.
What does 2018 hold? Even with the seat not open at this point, jockeying — and pushback — have begun for candidates.
The field of potential candidates in the post-DeSantis era includes a number of compelling names on both sides of the aisle.
One potential GOP hopeful, former Special Forces Lt. Mike Waltz, already is taking heat from a St. Augustine Republican activist named Bob Smith.
Waltz, a Stanton High School graduate living currently in St. Augustine Beach, has an impressive resume with data points that took him far beyond Northeast Florida, including stints as Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior adviser for South Asia and Counterterrorism and director for Afghanistan Policy within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
An email Smith sent this weekend eschews those details, instead spotlighting a video that Waltz made during the 2016 presidential primaries for the American Future Fund. Waltz excoriated President Donald Trump, who did not serve in the military, for “never having served this country a day in his life.”
“All Donald Trump has served is himself,” Waltz said. “Don’t let Donald Trump fool you. Look into his record, and stop Trump now.”
Smith charges that Waltz “moved to the district from Washington D.C. … a Jeb Bush supporter who went on TV and insulted our president.”
Waltz has become a strong supporter of the Trump agenda, both on Twitter and on Fox News.
Florida Politics talked to Waltz Monday, asking if he has changed, President Trump has changed, or circumstances have changed.
Waltz noted that his statements were made “during the primaries,” and that he spoke “on the heels of what Trump said about POWs” during the primaries.
(Infamously, Trump said that he “liked [soldiers] who weren’t captured” during a 2015 harangue targeting John McCain.)
Having himself been “targeted for capture by the Taliban,” Waltz felt — especially in the pitched context of the primary — that it was necessary to “stand up for POWs.”
“Once Trump became the presidential nominee,” Waltz said that he’s been “on board.”
Waltz lauded the “fantastic job” Trump has done as commander in chief, noting that the president is “letting [soldiers] do their jobs,” leading to soaring morale.
Waltz also asserted that the “most respected generals in the military” were helping Trump make decisions, adding that he himself — contrary to assertions — is “not a Never Trumper” and “never signed those petitions.”
Waltz, and those advising him, also question the timing of the moves against him — suggesting that they are orchestrated by a Republican candidate who has already jumped in — Navy veteran John Ward.
Ward, a multimillionaire who had pledged to have a million dollars in his campaign account by January, bills himself as “a Ronald Reagan Republican … running for Congress because I believe that Washington needs more ‘get-it-done outsiders’ who will fight for individual liberties and protect our freedoms.”
Ward vows “to end the do nothing, business-as-usual ways of Washington.”
Regardless of how the Republican side of the ballot shakes out, there will be at least one Democrat in the mix who has already started an impressive run.
Ambassador Nancy Soderbergraised $336,000 in her first quarter in the race, and she looks likely to add to that total this quarter — with at least one fundraiser planned in Jacksonville.
Though DeSantis’ eventual decision looms over this race — both for would-be Republican challengers, Soderberg and other Democrats — what is clear is that a district that went big for DeSantis in 2016 is perceived to be in play this cycle.
The money will be especially in play on the GOP side of the ledger, where the winning candidate will have a seven-figure war chest — and lots of outside help.
A frenetic year in Jacksonville politics — including the passage of the Human Rights Ordinance expansion, pension reform, and the Kids Hope Alliance — is ending.
And not a moment too soon.
The Jacksonville City Council meeting this week had nothing on the agenda was worth covering, even by the standards of our Jacksonville correspondent.
A superbug was going through Council, anyway, and at least one member was absent while another member fought the lingering cold — so it was just as well that they didn’t discuss hot-button issues.
At Bold, we are taking full advantage of the lull in the calendar — with no new issue this Thanksgiving.
We will be with our families, as you will, and we will think of what’s important — the real bonds that give meaning to the often-surreal world of politics.
Rick Scott drops budget in Duval
Gov. Scott released his final budget this week in Jacksonville, an $87.4B proposal with “historic” funding in any number of categories.
Throughout Scott’s remarks, there was a common theme: “historic investments” in area after area, a policy justified by an economy that is booming — on the macro level at least — as his eight years in Tallahassee near a close.
“We’ll have historic investments in education, historic investments in transportation, historic investments in the environment, and historic investments in helping those with disabilities,” Scott added. “On top of that, we’re all going to reward our law enforcement officers.”
Some new announcements were made for the Jacksonville market also, including a “historic $10.8 billion for transportation, including significant funding for Jacksonville, including the deepening of JAXPORT.”
Roy Moore accusations ‘disgusting,’ Scott says
Florida Politics was the first media outlet to ask Scott about Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate under fire for dating underage women while he was district attorney decades back.
Here’s what he told us exclusively in Jacksonville Tuesday: “If any of it’s true, he’s got to get out of the race.”
“This is not partisan. This is about doing the right thing, and when I think about the things in Hollywood, I think about my daughters. And when I think about this, I think about my grandkids.”
“When my daughters were teenagers,” Scott continued, “I was worried about where they were. So, when you hear reports like this, they’re disgusting. So, if there’s any truth to any of this, he’s got to get out of the race.”
“Every voter, every citizen, every taxpayer deserves to have their elected officials live up to high standards. When you read the stories like this, whether the thing’s in Alabama or Tallahassee or D.C. or California,” Scott said, “you think about your family, and you think about how disgusting it is and you hope it would never happen to anybody.”
Audrey Gibson drops Duval Dems chair
On Monday evening, State Sen. Gibson — the next Caucus leader for Senate Democrats — resigned as chair of the Duval County Democratic Party.
“As you may know,” Gibson wrote in an email to local Democrats, “last week I was elected Leader Designate of the Senate Democrat Caucus. I am deeply honored and realize the efforts I must give to winning more Dem seats will require 100 percent plus of my focus.”
Gibson thought the year she was chair was successful, noting that having “candidates ready to run” was among the party’s successes.
Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Yarborough will carry that one to Tallahassee, via a bill filed Monday.
Per the appropriations request, the project will “accommodate the space and growth needs for the College’s STEM programs that focus on public and private sector-identified regional workforce needs.”
“The facility will help the region meet its workforce targets and will help citizens in the community get connected with affordable degree and certificate programs that will lead to employment opportunities,” the request continues.
The $12 million would allow for demolition and replacement of facilities on the college’s downtown campus, the request continues, and unspecified “major employers” in the Jacksonville region would attest to the utility of the project.
Jason Fischer files ‘Smart Cities Initiative’
A bill (“the Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program”) filed Monday in the Florida Legislature would offer state grant money, via the Florida Department of Transportation, as an incentive for local solutions to transportation challenges.
Fischer filed the House version, HB 633; Republican Jeff Brandes is carrying the Senate version.
“Florida’s transportation system is inefficient and faces many challenges, but we can overcome them by embracing innovative technologies and thinking differently about how we plan our communities. This bill will provide cities and counties throughout Florida the opportunity to leverage technology and private investment to re-imagine mobility solutions not just for businesses but also for seniors, people with disabilities and other underserved individuals,” Fischer said.
A wide swath of agencies would qualify for funding; in particular, any governmental body responsible for the movement of goods and services in Florida, including local governments, but also TPOs and state universities.
Money, power, respect
In October fundraising for this region’s representation in Tallahassee, what was clear: correlation between stroke and checks.
Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner in HD 24 is on track to the House Speaker post. And Northeast Florida’s brightest hope in the House is also favored by donors outside the region.
Proof positive: the impressive October hauls of Renner’s two political committees, “Florida Foundation for Liberty” and “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.” They brought in $108,000 — much more than an incumbent running in a deep-red seat against an underfunded Democrat needs for re-election.
Also doing well: Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley. While not up for re-election, his fundraising was notable.
“Working for Florida’s Families,” Bradley’s political committee, reached a milestone with a $40,000 October, clearing $500,000 cash on hand.
Sen. Aaron Bean raised $36,000 between his committee and his campaign.
Except for Kim Daniels, who raised nothing and Cord Byrd, who raised just $2,000, virtually every other incumbent in the region did well.
The single open seat — in HD 15 — is competitive so far.
HD 15 Republican Wyman Duggan had a strong month: $20,500 in October, bringing him to $84,600 raised, with nearly $77,000 on hand. Democrat Tracye Polson kept pace.
She brought in $14,090 off 64 contributions in October, bringing her total raised to $65,189, with over $64,000 of that on hand. Her committee has another $12,000 banked, giving her $76,000 raised.
Not doing well in October: Attorney General candidate Jay Fant, who brought in $12,000 between his committee and campaign accounts. Luckily, a $750,000 personal loan buys him time, but opponents Ashley Moody and Frank White are well ahead when it comes to donor and endorser interest.
Big debuts for Jax Council hopefuls
Two new Jacksonville City Council candidates made huge splashes in their first months on the trail. And one political veteran started a bit slow.
Well-connected District 5 hopeful LeAnna Cumber brought in $101,775 last month in her bid to succeed termed-out Lori Boyer. Cumber’s entry into the race has been discussed for some time, and with that kind of money, the Tim Baker/Brian Hughes team deploying it, and a Democrat opponent with $400 on hand, she’s the front-runner.
Also starting off strong: currently unopposed Beaches candidate Rory Diamond, who brought in $85,326, and retained just over $82,000 of such as cash on hand.
Off to a slow start: former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop, with less than blistering fundraising in his first month against Ron Salem in At-Large District 2.
Bishop had a respectable first month — bringing in $13,325 off 24 contributions — though Salem almost matched him, with $11,125 collected.
Salem has just under $114,000 cash on hand, and it will be worth watching to see how Bishop closes the cash gap.
Curry met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, as well as Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House, U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Sen. Marco Rubio.
The primary goal of that trip: discussing the $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation that would allow the city to reconfigure off ramps from the Hart Bridge onto surface streets, allowing for more efficient movement of goods to and from the port.
And Curry, along with his team, made the pitch.
The in-person meeting, Curry said, had invaluable advantages, as a “face to face meeting” with the right people is inherently more meaningful than just presenting a paper with project specs and scope.
Curry recounted the case he made against the current configuration.
Its age makes it a “dinosaur” regarding design, one with safety issues that mandate changes.
The FDOT Study of the bridge conducted this year revealed the benefit to the port, another key benefit to the project.
The economic development for Bay Street the new traffic pattern would spawn, Curry said, was “gravy” — not the primary purpose of the project that some have suggested.
But the trip was about more than selling the project, Curry said. It’s about “long-term relationship building” as well, on this issue but others.
Jax councilors, mayor’s office discouraged from texting
Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche revised the council’s texting policy to include official “discouragement” of texts between legislators and the Mayor’s Office during meetings.
Brosche says it’s about transparent government.
“The impetus for change is transparency, open government, and equal access. During our meetings, all Council members and, more importantly, the public should be part of the conversations taking place regarding legislation actively being debated,” Brosche said.
Brosche also noted that administration members have been texting Council members during meetings.
“While I have observed colleagues receiving texts from the administration during meetings, I am going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that such communications were not about active legislation. My revision of the policy is a proactive measure to uphold the principles of transparency and open government and allow all Council Members and the public to know they are participating in all communications happening during Council meetings.”
The Mayor’s Office is OK with this, meanwhile.
“The mayor has always said he respects the Council and Council President’s roles in conducting themselves and setting policies as they see fit. The mayor has also been a proponent of transparency and accountability, and is always encouraged to see practices that support that,” asserted a statement from his office.
The mayor’s office and Brosche have clashed on various issues since she took over the presidency in July.
MLK breakfast troubles
First Coast News reports that the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference have no interest in participating in Jacksonville’s Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast next year.
The question they are asking: “What’s in it for the SCLC? What’s in it for the NAACP?”
At issue: economic disparity and resource allocation, with the civil rights groups claiming “One City One Jacksonville” is just a slogan — not a policy.
For its part, the Mayor’s Office contends that it has been making good faith efforts to meet with the local leaders of both groups, and has included them on the event host committee.
Revealed in 2017’s breakfast is a gap in rhetoric between the Mayor’s Office and the pastoral community. After that event, a boycott was threatened, per WJCT.
Opioid lawsuit imminent
Jacksonville soon may be one of the many governments suing Big Pharma in reaction to the opiate crisis.
Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel is vetting so-called “prestigious” law firms, with a decision expected early in December.
Earlier this year, the Jacksonville City Council approved a resolution OKing legal action.
“The general counsel’s approved it, and I don’t feel like there’s any impediment,” Gulliford said.
The city has absorbed real costs from the opioid epidemic.
Overdoses, at last count, end four times as many lives as homicides in Duval County, with 2016’s number of 464 casualties more than doubling 2015’s number of 201.
Caucasians represent 86 percent of the deaths, and over half of those passing away are in their 30s and 40s.
And things could get worse: a fentanyl derivative being used to cut heroin in the Ohio Valley doesn’t respond to Narcan.
What Aaron Bean is up to in November
On Friday, Nov. 17, the Fernandina Beach Republican will speak at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Sertoma Speech & Hearing Foundation’s new mobile audiology services van, which will provide pediatric hearing screenings and dispense hearing aids. That event begins 1 p.m. at the Hidden Hills Learning Tree, 12160 Fort Caroline Road in Jacksonville.
On Wednesday, Nov. 22, Bean will appear at the dedication of a memorial for Nassau County Deputy Eric Oliver, on the anniversary of his death in 2016 by a hit-and-run driver. The dedication begins at 7:30 a.m., 463779 FL-200 in Yulee.
Then, on Nov. 28, Bean will give a speech to members of the Downtown Business Professional Group and offer an update on the upcoming 2018 Legislative Session. The meeting starts 7 a.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Drive in Jacksonville.
Local veteran honored in Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame
Colonel Len Loving, United States Marine Corps (Ret.) and CEO of Five STAR Veterans Center, will be honored in the State of Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
The State of Florida began the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2013 to recognize and honor military veterans who, through their works and lives during or after military service, have made a significant contribution to the State of Florida. In selecting its nominees, the Council has given preference to veterans who were either born in Florida or adopted Florida as their home state.
In 1986, Loving founded the Marine Corps Blount Island Command, in Jacksonville, which has become a major economic engine in Northeast Florida. He was the Commanding Officer until his retirement in 1989.
In 2011, Loving began building and opening the Five STAR Veterans Center, where he continues to serve as CEO. The center gives food, housing, assistance securing veteran benefits, financial, mental health services provided by the Delores Barr Weaver Fund, and more to 30-plus homeless veterans monthly.
Loving has been chosen for the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame due to his positive impact on Florida’s most at-risk veterans and their families by 1) opening what is now the Five STAR Veterans Center, 2) going many extra miles to keep the doors open, and 3) making a lasting, life-altering impact on those who are most significantly affected by their years in service and have nowhere else to turn.
Today, five years after opening the doors, 199 veterans have lived at and benefited from the Five STAR Veterans Center; 35 veterans currently live at the center, and by January 2018 the center expects to reach their capacity of 39 veterans.
JAXPORT to expand vehicle-handling capacity
JAXPORT is beginning construction of a new automobile processing terminal, the first part of a multiyear project to increase the port’s vehicle-handling capacity 25 percent.
Once completed, the facility will add more than 100 acres of processing and storage space on JAXPORT’s Dames Point Marine Terminal, offering vessels direct waterside access for loading and unloading with major interstates less than 1 mile away plus the potential for rail capabilities.
The expansion follows a year of highest-ever vehicle volumes at JAXPORT. In 2017, the port moved record 693,000 total units. With the port’s three auto processors and location in the heart of the nation’s fastest-growing auto consumer market, JAXPORT his responding to the increased demand for vehicle space.
“The steady growth of our auto business speaks volumes about our efficiencies,” said Roy Schleicher, JAXPORT Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. “We are committed to supporting our auto partners with the tools they require to continue to expand their businesses in Jacksonville.”
Jacksonville Zoo Breakfast with Santa
On the weekend of Dec. 2-3, Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens members and their families can enjoy a delicious breakfast buffet, and become among the first to tell Santa their holiday wishes. New this year: Breakfast will take place at the Shaba Terrace at Main Camp.
Members Only Breakfast with Santa begins 8 a.m., and costs $8 per member, ages 3 and up.
Those with a friend, 1 adult family + 1, family + 1 or family + 2 membership may bring the corresponding number of guests. A limited number of tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis. More information available at Jacksonvillezoo.org.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam sees a wake-up call in the Democrats’ victories in Tuesday night’s elections in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere and declared Wednesday that it’s a call for a campaign to convince grassroots voters that the state’s conservative-principaled prosperity is at stake.
“We are at a crossroads. Make no mistake. Look what happened in Virginia and New Jersey. There should be a sense of urgency about this election. Not complacency,” Putnam told an Up and Adam gathering at a Winter Park restaurant Wednesday morning. “The inertia is for Florida to be more like New York than like Texas. The inertia is for the left to hijack our elections in Florida.”
Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, is honing his message to be that of continuing and building upon the conservative leadership he says Gov. Rick Scott has used to make the state’s economy the envy of the nation. At The Coop, a southern-cooking themed restaurant from John Rivers, Putnam continued his call for aggressive support for technical education, saying community colleges and trade schools have gotten “a stick in the eye” from the Florida Legislature in recent years. And he continued his assaults on liberals he says are out to turn Florida into a liberal bastion yet economic basket case like Illinois.
Yet, drawing on lessons he sees in Tuesday’s off-year elections as potential signaling a Democratic resurrection, Putnam also stressed the need to remind voters of the Republican’s accomplishments in Florida, and to get them out to vote to continue the program.
With the hobbling of state Sen. Jack Latvala from an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct, Putnam, of Bartow, now stands as the only serious Republican officially seeking the governor’s office in 2018, though he has to keep an eye out for potential candidacies of Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. The Democrats, meanwhile, have four major candidates in the race, former state Rep. Gwen Graham, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King, whose office is within easy walking distance of The Coop.
“There’s certainly a wake-up call here,” Putnam said after his 20-minute speech. “People are fed up with an absence of results in Washington. People were sent to fix our health care system, reform our tax code, and there’s just, there’s no results. It’s a warning against being complacent on turnout.
“But every election, every campaign is local. And you look at the strength of Florida’s economy, the growth in the number of jobs we have here, I think Floridians are looking for a governor who is going to build on our economic progress and give young people the the skills to stay in Florida and succeed,” he added.
He urged the gathering of about 50 people at The Coop to get engaged in his campaign and stay engaged, and to work to convince the conservative grassroots to vote, lest Florida see Virginia’s experience.
“And if we don’t get engaged, then you will have a sanctuary state. You will have an erosion of gun laws. And you will have the types of high taxes and bloated bureaucracy that is driving people from Chicago and New York in droves to our states,” Putnam said. “So don’t let Florida become more like New York and Illinois. We’ve got to fight in this election for the future of our grandkids. We’ve got to fight for a stronger, better Florida, in our infrastructure, in workforce development, and in a pro-business environment that we know Florida can be. That is our challenge in 2018. And that is my vision as your next governor.”
Just hours after a wave election night that was brutal for Republicans and almost ideal for Democrats, one might have expected Amb. Nancy Soderberg to send a “rally the troops” fundraising pitch for her bid in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
However, Soderberg went in a different direction, instead giving President Donald Trump credit for a “remarkable and welcome change of tone” regarding tension with North Korea in a fundraising appeal Wednesday morning.
“After months of taunting and threats to North Korea,” Soderberg wrote, “we saw a different President Trump today in his visit to Seoul.”
“It was a remarkable and welcome change of tone. Today,” Soderberg added, “President Trump seemed more inclined to let diplomacy work, backing off on previous remarks that negotiations would be a waste of time.”
“In fact, he seemed to indicate progress and faith in diplomatic efforts, saying ‘Ultimately, it will all work out’.”
Soderberg avoids using the word “pivot” in the email, and offers caveats, including concern about Trump’s
“lack of restraint in his comments and actions in foreign policy issues, bringing us closer to nuclear war than many realize.”
However, while this is “still a very precarious situation,” Soderberg is “encouraged that sanity might be peeking through the door.”
Soderberg notes toward the close that the military option can’t be ruled out.
“All options must remain on the table. Diplomacy is not always the solution. But given the many that would die in a conflict with North Korea,” Soderberg wrote, “we owe it to them and all Americans to exhaust other options first.”
Soderberg had a strong 3Q of fundraising, with $336,000 brought in.
While Rep. Ron DeSantis is the incumbent, talk for months has been that he will run for a statewide race in 2018, making CD 6 an open seat in what could be another Democratic wave election.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam attributes his fondness for early starts to being a farmer.
Reporters from the city may be more likely to attribute it to sadism — especially when they drive from Jacksonville before sunrise for an 8 a.m. campaign event in Clay County.
Whatever the motivation, Putnam has shown a propensity for his ‘Up and Adam’ events, with his latest being Tuesday at Whitey’s Fish Camp in Fleming Island.
Putnam carries himself like the presumptive GOP nominee in next year’s race for governor — and why not?
His major declared opponent, Sen. Jack Latvala, has been hit hard this week in POLITICO, with reportage on alleged dalliances with female lobbyists.
Putnam didn’t want to talk about that in Clay County, punting the question when asked a couple of different ways. Nor did he want to say anything quotable about Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is eyeballing a November entry to the race.
Putnam was happy, however, to discuss his road-tested vision of Florida exceptionalism — a speech that this writer, despite being tethered to one corner of the state, can recite portions of without any prompting.
In Clay County — now with 200,000 citizens, and many of them deep-red Republicans — that speech worked well.
Putnam extolled the virtues of blue collar work repeatedly in his remarks, rhapsodizing about power restoration crews and debris removal crews, as well as shipbuilders.
He noted that in Panama City, where Coast Guard cutters are being built, that the challenge is finding “enough workers … good, talented workers who don’t want a participation trophy for showing up … who can pass a drug test [and get a] security clearance.”
Putnam, mindful of the ever-vulnerable right flank, noted that “we don’t support men and women who kneel for the National Anthem.”
In a different context, that may have been an applause line; weeks removed from the heat of Kneelghazi, early in the morning, it didn’t pop the crowd.
No matter — it established the conservative bona fides.
The checklist of right-of-center talking points: an aversion to sanctuary cities, support for Rule of Law, parental involvement in schools — they were all there, as reliable in Putnam’s speeches as left-of-center bromides were in the presidential campaign speeches of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Putnam also extolled Clay County — and St. Johns County — for not having the pressures that Duval County, a largely metropolitan county with the kind of legacy costs older, larger cities have.
He said that the bedroom communities are “taking parents because the schools are so outstanding,” with people “voting with their feet.”
“Florida will not be a failed state,” Putnam said, toward the end of his off-the-cuff but certainly prepared remarks.
The question for any opponent who jumps into this race is a simple one: how to compete with a candidate with nearly $20 million in the bank and — as Putnam himself told this outlet — a history in this race since April.